Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Hands All Around #10 Crown of Thorns for Annie Brown


Hands All Around #10 Crown of Thorns by Janet Perkins

Crown of Thorns remembers Anne Brown whose father John Brown, was hung as a traitor in December, 1859 for instigating an attack on a federal arsenal in Harper's Ferry, Virginia.

Anne D. Brown Adams (1843-1926)
From a CDV, perhaps sold by antislavery activists about 1860

The first month of the Civil War in spring, 1861 left Louisa Alcott energized and frustrated.
"I've often longed to see a war, and now I have my wish. I long to be a man; but as I can't fight, I will content myself with working for those who can."
Stories swirled in her head but...

"John Brown's daughters came to board, and upset my plans of rest and writing....I had my fit of woe up [in the ] garret on the fat rag-bag, and then put my papers away, and fell to work at housekeeping."

(Oh, would we love to see that fat rag-bag in the attic. It's practically a character in the family story.)

About a year after their father's execution Anne Brown and her younger sister Sarah were invited to enroll at Franklin Sanborn's school (tuition perhaps paid by George & Mary Stearns.) They first stayed at Waldo & Lidian Emerson's house with daughter Ellen who told friend Annie Keyes Bartlett that they were "not as homely as she expected them to be."

Ellen Tucker Emerson (1839 - 1909)
Annie Bartlett was a nicer girl:
"Frank Stearns' mother is going to give them their outfit [for school.] Poor girls how I pity them, I must try to be kind to them."
Annie & Ellen were May Alcott's age; one can imagine Ellen being less than kind to the younger Browns---and maybe to the other teenage girls in town.

Bronson and Abba Alcott, always eager to support the antislavery cause, agreed to board the Browns, daughters of the man they considered a martyr to the movement, "St. John" as Louisa called him in her journal.

Sophia Thoreau (1819-1876)

Sophia Thoreau, a generation older than May and Ellen Emerson, welcomed the Brown sisters to Concord with a party she and her mother Cynthia Dunbar Thoreau organized. Annie Brown recalled first meeting Louisa Alcott there. Annie Bartlett wrote her brother Ned, serving in the army, that the Thoreaus had also organized an album quilt for the girls, a "John Brown memorial" with an appropriate inscription on each block.

Annie Brown recorded her memories of Concord years later, particularly of living at the Alcott's.
Louisa and Bronson "used to spend their evenings in their rooms and Mrs. Alcott played nine men's Morris, alternate games with my sister and myself, than a game of cribbage with my sister, next a game of chess with me, and then Miss Louisa would come down and we all would play Casino...with cards, ending by playing 'Old Maid' chatting pleasantly and going to bed."
Elizabeth Sewall Willis (Abba's niece) & 
Mrs Phineas Wells, playing chess.
Collection: The Nelson Gallery in Kansas City 

Nine Men's Morris is an ancient board game

The housekeeping that kept Louisa from writing down her ideas apparently did not include much ironing. Annie Brown's observations:

"They were the first persons I ever knew who advocated folding clothes and giving them 'a brush and a promise' instead of spending so much useless time at the ironing board."
In a time of starched cottons one might wonder just how presentable Louisa and Abba looked. But Bronson was pampered with starched shirts remembered Annie Brown.

 "I used to think that if Mr. Alcott's philosophy had made him wear a few less clean shirts, that his wife might have rested instead of toiling and sweating over the ironing board so long to pamper his fastidious notions." 
Crown of Thorns by Addison

After a year in Concord the Brown sisters went home to New York and classes at the Fort Edward Collegiate Institute. Annie taught school during the war and in 1864 their mother decided to move the family west. 

Anne on the left and Sarah (born in 1846) with their mother 
Mary Ann Day Brown (1816-1884). Anne is about 8 years old here in 1851.

Mary Ann Day married the older John Brown when she was 17 and had given birth to 13 children but by the time the Brown girls were living in Concord Annie and Sarah had only two surviving siblings (plus several half brothers and a sister.)

Mary Ann Brown brought a daughter (possibly Annie) to visit the Alcotts right after Louisa's sister married John Pratt in 1860. Louisa described the Browns to her sister Anna:

"Mrs. Brown..."is a tall, stout woman, plain, but with a strong, good face, and a natural dignity that showed she was something better than a 'lady,' although she did drink out of her saucer and used the plainest speech. The younger woman had such a patient, heart-broken face, it was a whole Harper's Ferry tragedy in a look." She must be describing Annie Brown Adams and doing it perfectly.

Descendant Alice Keesey Mecoy doesn't tell us much about this cased photo of Anne Brown who looks to be in her teens. Alice is quite an authority on her great-great grandmother.

The year with the Alcotts may have been one pleasant interlude in a difficult life marred by trauma, death, notoriety and poverty. John Brown took 15-year-old Anne to Virginia with him to keep house while he plotted his failed raid on the Federal Armory in Harper's Ferry. She was often referred to as the raid's "only survivor" although this is not true, but one can imagine the callousness of an obsessive father involving his adolescent daughter in his plot to start a slave rebellion (to say nothing of involving his sons who died there)

 Crown of Thorns by Becky Brown

The Block

The pattern is BlockBase #2152 from the Nancy Page newspaper column in the 1930s.

You need
4 A squares
& 12 large C triangles.

8” Block (2” Grid)
A—Cut 4 squares 2-1/2”
C—Cut 2 squares 2-7/8”. Cut each into 2 triangles with one diagonal cut.

12” Block (3” Grid)

16” Block (4” Grid)

D - Cut 1 square 
8”– 3‐3‐3/8” 
12”– 4‐3/4” 
16” ‐ 6‐1/8” 

E - Cut 1 square. Cut into 4 triangles with 2 diagonal cuts. You need 8 medium triangles. 

8” ‐ 3‐1/4"
12” - 4‐1/4” 
16” ‐ 5‐1/4”

F - Cut 8 squares. Cut into 2 triangles with 1 diagonal cut. You need 16 small triangles.

 8” ‐ 1‐7/8”
Joan says:
For the 12”, cut squares 2 3/8”
For the 16”, cut squares 2 7/8” (same sizes as the F squares in the #9 pattern)


Ladies' Legacy prints from Moda

Post Script

During the war Union troops marched to the tune of "John Brown's Body" and the Brown women remained heroines to many Northerners. Their lives were never easy, however. Escaping notoriety and crowds of tourists at their New York home the family moved west in 1864.

Annie and Sarah joined sister Ellen, Brother Salmon, his family and mother Mary in traveling to Iowa and then on to Red Bluff, California, arriving in late 1864. Blacksmith Samuel S. Adams, 14 years older than Annie, began courting her. His family had lived near the Browns in Ohio and Kansas. They married November 25, 1869 and soon moved to Rohnerville south of Eureka up in the redwoods country. At 26 Annie became stepmother to 6-year-old girl Irona and 2-year-old Ward. 

Anne and Samuel Sylvester Adams (1829-1914) in California
Collection of Alice Keesey Mecoy, their descendant.

Annie had 11 more children and lived a hardscrabble life. Friends and supporters thought nothing of revealing her troubles in an effort to raise money (particularly soliciting donations from former slaves) in this 1897 article in a Washington D.C. newspaper.

"Annie Brown Adams made an unfortunate marriage. Her husband was for many years a victim of drink and never made her a fitting support. She got him to go to the northern part of California, where he would be away from bad associations...She has had very bad luck.... Last July [Her heavily mortgaged] house burned down.... "
Telling the world that she (and her alcoholic husband) lived in abject poverty in a make-shift farm shed would seem to be just the kind of notoriety they went to California to escape. Let's hope the Adamses were too poor to afford a newspaper.

Brown family reunion in Altadena, California at 
half-brother Owen's cabin. Three brothers are identified. 
Are Annie or her sisters among the attendees?

Annie was the longest lived survivor of John Brown's children, dying in Humboldt County in 1926 at a daughter's home.

See Louisa Alcott's letter to sister Anna about the visit by Mary Ann Brown and daughters here:

20th-century woman drinking a hot beverage
 out of  the saucer---Apparently NOT done in Concord.
My mother & her New York sisters used to tease each other
 about the coffee in the saucer. Perhaps it was a New York habit.

 Crown of Thorns by Denniele Bohannon

The Set: Christmas Gifts

Twelve 12" blocks alternated with a 12" finished border =84" x 84"

Generosity to others was a hallmark of Alcott life (with perhaps some grumbling.) Remember how Little Women begins with: "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents." Christmas Gifts includes a border of Cardinals and Cranberries, some natural gifts.

The birds and berries are from a border design Jean Stanclift did years ago for our Sunflower Pattern Cooperative on the cover here of Cranberry Collection.  

I'm just giving you a border pattern for the 12" blocks here. You'll have to adapt it if you want to do it larger or smaller.

The pieced stars finish to 60". Here's a corner.
The quilt finishes to 84".
Cut 4 strips 12-1/2" x 84-1/2" for mitering.

Patterns for each corner. You could do 1 corner or 4.
Print them out on 8-1/2" x 11" sheets.

Further Reading:

Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz, The Tie That Bound Us; the Women of John Brown's Family and the Legacy
of Radical Abolitionism
(Cornell University Press, 2013) 


Kat said...

Very much enjoying this BOM! But what is the square size for this month's (Oct) 16" block piece F? I don't find it anywhere.

Sharon Siacci said...

I am fascinated with this block. I’m off to give it a go. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Piece F is missing the size for 12 and 16 in block. It even says so lol